This release is the latest in a recent series featuring artists working in the Southeastern United States that are largely unknown--at least on a national level. It is also the first solo release for Beverly Watkins, who was 59 years old at the time it was issued. Beverly was born in Atlanta, which is still her home base. While still in high school, she got a gig as rhythm guitarist with Piano Red & The Interns. She recorded with him from 1959-66, including the hit singles "Doctor Feelgood" and "Right String But the Wrong Yo-Yo." After spending a short period on the road with other bands, she returned to Atlanta taking jobs in domestic service while continuing as a part-time musician working in the area. She has fronted her own act for the past several years, playing in "Underground" Atlanta.
The band backing Beverly on this release consists of the usual rhythm section and includes a keyboardist and sax player on various cuts. Beverly handles the guitar work and primary female vocals on all cuts. The keyboard and saxophone are nicely deployed. To borrow a phrase from Beverly, the style would primarily be "hard classic blues, hard stompin' blues, you know...railroad smokin' blues!" Several different musicians were used in the production of this release. The "core group" includes: Carl Sonny Leyland (piano); Danny "Mudcat" Dudeck/Albert White (guitars); Jon Schwenke (base); Eddie Boyd (tenor sax) and Ardie Dean (drums).
The release -- a dozen tracks, forty-eight minutes long -- opens with a hard driving autobiographical tune, "Miz Dr. Feelgood" which spotlights both Beverly's guitar and vocal work. The following cut "I'm Gonna Rock Some More" features a "honky-tonk" sounding piano and some sax leads. As you would guess, it has a "rock" edge to it. Moving on, "Tell Me Daddy" is something of a shuffle that keeps the piano/sax interplay going with a guitar break or two. The following cut (My Baby Left Town) keeps this approach intact, as well. After that Beverly does a snappy version of "Right String But The Wrong Yo-yo" which is followed by a bit slower tune "Impeach Me Baby," in which Beverly exchanges vocal lines with a male vocalist and makes some references to recent history ("Monica-Gate" and "Tricky Dick") when analyzing a romance where she sings the part of a lover caught cheating.
Next comes "Red Mama Blues," a slow blues piece which gives Beverly an opportunity to stretch some guitar notes (sounding a bit like some Albert Collins work on this cut). Things pick up a bit again with "You Make Me Feel So Good" -- a happy-sounding tune about good love -- which moves on to the opposite theme in "Too Many Times," a basic blues tune referring to lying and cheating. "Blue In The Night" is ca catchy duet between lovers who have hurt each other and is done in a very slow--almost waltz tempo. The release concludes with two generic sounding--but nicely done cuts --"What About Me" and "Back In Business."
Everything considered, this is a very good release, featuring a female (guitarist and vocalist) leading the band (certainly not unheard of, but not the "norm"). A fresh sound from an artist's debut recording and some material you haven't heard before Beverly wrote or CO-wrote seven of the songs). Beverly does very solid guitar work. While her vocals are a bit rough, that is because of a "blues growl" she hits when stretching range or volume. It actually works quite well with the material on this release. Your basic "good rockin' blues" with a few changes thrown in. Has the feel of a live recording (and could be on a couple cuts for all I know) sometimes.
This CD can be found at the Internet music retailers and should be in wide availability given distribution through Sire. Warner Music Company (from the U.K.--not to be confused with Warner Brothers) does have a WEB site under its name, but it is as of this writing "under construction."
Perhaps of more interest and overall importance is some info about the Music Maker foundation which is to a large degree responsible for the record series that bears that name. "Music Maker Relief Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern musical traditions gain recognition and meet their day to day needs. Today, many such musicians are living in extreme poverty and need food, shelter, medical care, and other assistance. Music Maker's aid and service programs improve the quality of recipients lives. Our work affirms to these artists that we value the gifts of music and inspiration they have delivered to the world. Our mission is to give back to the roots of American music." So reads the Foundation's purpose statement.
Check it out at: http://www.imall.com/stores/MusicMaker/MusicMaker1.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Mark Halverson, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.